I think it's time to embrace Autumn, readers (you mean you have already?) and what could be better to mark this season than a trip to the cider farm. Off we go deep into the heart of smiling Somerset whereupon we stumble on a scene from years past.
In our opinion, there's no finer brew than the cider produced at Burrow Hill. Tucked away along a country lane, we stumbled upon The Somerset Distillery years ago, entirely by accident. We were entranced by the place and we return errm, quite frequently.
This area of South Somerset is notable for its fields of apple orchards stretching into the distance. Sheep graze under the old apple trees, there's even the odd snorting pig snaffling up the windfalls (it's true!) and there's an abundance of wild birds.
This cider farm is a ramshackle old place, and I say that in the very best sense of the word. Peace pervades, the air is filled with the scent of apples in the yard waiting to be turned into a delicious brew and if you've just £6 or so, you can walk away with a 4 litre container of the best cider you'll ever have tasted.
This place is also known for producing the popular "Somerset Cider Brandy" (an English version of Calvados) and they also make various aperitifs and juices. In the yard, there are various displays of old stills and cider making equipment.
I think this would be a great place to photograph some sludgey quilts!
At certain times of the year, you can take a guided walk through the orchards to view the blossom or the apples and hear the owner, Julian Temperley (father of fashion designer Alice and quite a character), tell you everything you could ever wish to know about cider apple varieities and cider making. I'm getting thirsty just thinking about it!
Harvest time, around October, is the most exciting time to visit. The amount of apples piled up in the yard and waiting in tractors to be pressed is quite jaw dropping. The scent in the air is rather heady.
Don't they look delightful?
On with the job then. The apples process along a channel in the yard's floor and are washed on the way. They then pass through various stages, pressing the apples, extracting the juice, disposing of the pulp and so on.
Hmm, that doesn't look so nice!
Finally, in the depths of the barn where the air is very cool, the cider rests in enormous vats.
Until we come along, that is! You can have your containers filled up from the oak casks, requesting dry, medium or sweet (and having a taster, of course).
In addition, there is a range of bottled ciders and juices which have a longer shelf life (we find the fresh cider lasts about two weeks in the fridge, if we haven't drunk it all by then!) I often buy these and put some in the hampers I make up as gifts at Christmas. You can also buy cider brandy truffles, cider vinegar crisps and apple chutney and recipes are available for interesting cocktails to make using the farm's cider and spirits.
Oh dear, it was really too early in the day for writing this post! Apple juice it is then...
P.S. To those of you very kind people who took the time to wish me "happy birthday", very many thanks, your thoughtfulness was very much appreciated.